As an educated woman and a potential bride, I felt threatened by years of weddings focused on virginity and patriarchy. More and more of my friends are getting engaged and planning weddings, and I find my consciousness heightened about this strange, ritualistic celebration. I wonder if it’s entirely necessary to wear an engagement ring, change my name, and be “given away” by my father. At the risk of starting to sound like an episode of Sex in the City, is it possible to transcend ignorance and still experience wedding bliss?
According to Family Guy’s Lois Griffin, “If you ask me, feminism is about choice, and I choose to be a wife and mother” (episode 202: I am Peter, Hear Me Roar). I commend Lois for her choices, and I hope to receive the same support for the choices I make. My idea is that many modern women are independent and self-sufficient. She’ll bring home as much bacon as her man, and her identity should be kept in spite of marriage.
This translates to a conflict between me—and the likes of me, assuming I don’t stand alone—and the traditional wedding. Convention tells us the bride’s family pays for the wedding, or at least the bulk of it. This and the bridal shower are residues from the days of dowry. “Sir, I’ll take that daughter off your hands, but you’ll have to pay me to do it, since she’ll never make any money herself.” I don’t think so!
In cahoots with the old dowry are the traditions of consent and the giving away of the bride. I understand the sentimental value of being walked down the aisle by one’s father, or even both parents, but the idea of a bride being property transferred from her father to her husband at the alter is antiquated and sexist. Why does the bride have be patronized while the groom marches himself up the aisle and stands proudly on his own two feet?
Speaking of pride, another thing about weddings I find revolting is the repeated show of the bride’s virginity. Centuries ago, a wife who didn’t bleed on her wedding night could be divorced and treated like a whore without further questioning. Today the bride’s white gown shows her purity and her veil symbolizes the metaphorical veil of her innocence being lifted away by her husband.
To counter these intrusive symbols, I don’t necessarily suggest shunning the color white or opting out of a veil. Certain aspects of the metaphors behind the veil and the white gown are beautiful and still relevant. For example, a bride wearing these garments goes to the alter with a clean, white slate, ready to open her eyes to a new life with her spouse.
I realize that this is an area upon which one should tread lightly. Marriage is “sacred” as they say, and personal, and like I said above, I believe that everyone is entitled to make their own choices. I hope only to point out that traditional marriage is also very symbolic, and that many of these symbolic acts are sexist. Women today are powerful and can stand up to the men of the world bearing their “maiden” names and their identities while cultivating beautiful relationships. I hope to be one of them!
To everyone planning a wedding, I ask you to understand the traditions you’re practicing so that the symbolism of our ceremonies matches the social progress we’ve made and will continue to make.

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